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The Ages and Stages of Teaching Children How to Tell Time

As parents and educators, one of our fundamental responsibilities is teaching children essential life skills. Among these skills, the ability to tell time is a crucial milestone. However, just like any other skill, children learn to tell time at different ages and stages. In this article, we'll explore the ages and stages at which children typically develop this skill, providing guidance to help your child become a proficient time-teller.

Stage 1: Basic Awareness (Ages 3-4)

Around the age of 3 or 4, children begin developing a basic awareness of time concepts. They start to understand the difference between morning, afternoon, and night. These early conversations can be part of their daily routine: "It's morning, time to wake up," or "It's bedtime, time to sleep." This helps them grasp the idea that time is associated with different activities and events.

Stage 2: Introduction to Analog Clocks (Ages 5-6)

At ages 5 to 6, many children are ready to explore analog clocks with hour and minute hands. You can start by teaching them to read the hours first, explaining how the big hand (hour hand) points to the hour, and the small hand (minute hand) to the 12. Using simple analog clocks with clear faces can make this process more engaging and less overwhelming.

We have some fantastic resources, from flashcards to worksheets and posters! Download these for FREE by clicking on the titles below!

Telling The Time Worksheets
Download PDF • 117KB
Colourful clock poster - Telling Time - Ducklings Preschool
Download PDF • 89KB
Telling the Time Matching Flashcards
Download PDF • 262KB
Multiple 'What's the time' worksheets
Download PDF • 116KB

Stage 3: Understanding Minutes (Ages 6-7)

After mastering the hours, children can gradually learn to read the minutes. Explain the concept of the minute hand, emphasizing how it moves between the numbers to represent minutes. Begin with the basic intervals: "o'clock," "half past," and "quarter past/quarter to." Use real-life examples like meal times or TV schedules to reinforce these concepts.

Stage 4: Introduction to Digital Clocks (Ages 6-7)

Around the same time they're learning analog clocks, children can also be introduced to digital clocks. Digital clocks display time numerically, making it easier for children to understand the correlation between the numbers and the time of day. Encourage them to read both analog and digital clocks to reinforce their time-telling skills.

Stage 5: Advanced Concepts (Ages 7+)

As children grow older, you can introduce more advanced time-related concepts:

  • 24-Hour Format: Teach them to read time in the 24-hour format, which is commonly used in various contexts, such as schedules and transportation timetables.

  • AM and PM: Explain the concepts of "AM" (Ante Meridiem) and "PM" (Post Meridiem) to help children understand the difference between morning and afternoon/evening times.

  • Calendar Skills: Introduce the use of calendars to track days, weeks, and months. Show them how to mark important dates and events on a calendar.


It's important to remember that children develop at their own pace. Some may grasp time-telling concepts earlier, while others may take more time. Here are some tips to facilitate the learning process:

  • Make it fun and interactive. Use educational games, clocks with clear faces, and time-related activities.

  • Be patient and encouraging. Celebrate their successes and provide gentle guidance when they encounter difficulties.

  • Incorporate daily routines and activities to reinforce their time-telling skills naturally.

  • Talk to your child's teacher, to see if they have any advice or additional resources which can help support your child's learning while at home.

To summarise, teaching children how to tell time is a gradual process that evolves through different stages - and no pun intended - takes time! By tailoring your approach to their individual readiness and using engaging methods, you can help your child become a confident time-teller, equipping them with this valuable life skill.


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